Alexander Technique teachers often have a problem with the word posture! It might have something to do with the fact that often, when we are talking to someone and they find out what we teach, they straighten up and pull themselves into a military style posture all tight and uncomfortable. They have heard that we are something to do with teaching ‘good posture’ and we, the posture police, are ready to judge them for slouching!
This idea of holding yourself in the correct position is often thought of as ‘good posture’
but this is definitely not what we teach. So, as a consequence, we sometimes ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ and reject the word posture altogether. My feeling is that we need to take a page out of Humpty Dumpty’s book 😀 (in Through the Looking Glass). He says ‘When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less’. We can redefine what we as AT teachers mean as posture, after all most of us have the right gist about what ‘good posture’ is and that it might be good for us, but generally we don’t know how to achieve it without a lot of pulling, pushing and excess tension.
I am reading a great meditation book at the moment (I read and meditate regularly) and in it there is a description of ‘good posture’, it has great resonance with the Alexander Technique.
‘Good posture…puts the body into a position wherein it’s energies tend to circulate in a bright and calm way. The ‘good’ of good posture is not about an outward appearance; it’s that which remedies stagnation or tension. However, the balanced alertness of good posture doesn’t come around through bodily effort alone. It is a matter of settling the body into balance with a steady and sensitive attitude. The patience and care with which we develop good posture is a development for the mind in its own right: rather than forcing ourselves to sit up straight, we’re learning to massage, give and relax our attention to attune to a poised alertness……a moment-by-moment application is needed.’ Ajahn Sucitto, Meditation, A Way of Awakening.
I teach people good posture by giving the tools they need to use their bodies in a poised, balanced and well co-ordinated way. AT provides a practical way of reducing excess tension (that can be a physical response to stress). This can improve health and the way we function. These skills allow us to look better (have better posture) and feel more at ease and confident in ourselves. Having ‘good’ posture as I define it aids free, efficient, pain free movement and gives grace and reduces effort we need to achieve our goals.
Good posture is not just important for aesthetic reasons or for our physical wellbeing, the way we use our bodies affects the way we think. We are psychophysical beings, there is no real separation between mind, body and emotions. AT trains both the body and mind, we can use the body to calm and positively affect our mind (as well as the other way round). We know that mindfulness meditation can lead to feeling more relaxed physically; but if we use our bodies in a poised, calm and balanced way we can bring calm and clarity to the mind.
In a fascinating book I read a couple of years ago (How the Body Knows it’s Mind by Sian Beilock) there are many examples of this body to mind influence. One short example that stands out is ‘when you are in a slumped position you don’t feel as good about your accomplishments, such as how you just performed at a presentation. Simply assuming a happy or sad bodily posture, a confident or anxious mien, conveys to your brain what emotional state we are in.’ Emotions are expressed in the body as changes in physical tension, destructive emotions adding tension to our system. But the good news is that with the embodied awareness AT teaches, we can recognise these reactions and use our thinking to change our bodies and relieve this tension enabling us to look, feel better and move better.
‘Good posture’ is so much more than just standing up straight, achieved through the skills Alexander Technique empowers us with, it’s leads to improved physical and mentally wellbeing.
If you would like to find out about ways to learn AT contact me via the contacts page.